A hidden treat for nature lovers

A volunteer day group at the Viewpoint car park.

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Have you ever wandered down to Roots of Arran Community Woodland from the Viewpoint car park on Brodick hill or up to it from the Mayish track in Brodick?

Did you know the area is maintained by a group of volunteers, some of whom were around when it first became a formally constituted charitable group in 2002?

Its principle objective was to conserve and restore Arran’s natural woodland environment. They finally had an offer from the Forestry Commission of 20 hectares of clearfell behind Brodick, called Lag A Bheith. The group has an on-going written lease agreement with them whereby they submit a basic management plan to the forestry each year and the forestry agrees in return to maintain the main path through the site and help make safe any fallen trees.

The donated site was clear-felled so it was mostly bare earth and sitka stumps with a few areas of older trees including an old stand of Scots pines and a grove of 200-year-old beech trees.

Finally, in October 2005, they held their first official volunteer workday setting about clearing two large circles of brash, one of which is now used as a gathering space with some nut-bearing hazels, a wooden shelter and compost toilet and the other, a small apple orchard.

Several different native tree species have been planted over the years including aspen donated by the Forestry Commission.

Within the past 10 years, the committee has overseen additions of a large pond, benches, additional paths, signs and further native tree planting. The woodland has also hosted outdoor learning by island schools and visiting school groups.

What is remarkable though is how the biodiversity of the site has sky-rocketed including an explosion of dragonflies in the pond area whilst the dense birch and bramble areas provide ideal habitat for many bird species.

A walk through the site on a warm spring morning is now accompanied by a delightful cacophony of birdsong. It is a joy to walk through and find the magical silver birch spiral planted and maintained by retired art teacher, now woodland volunteer, Mike Bailey.

The committee has, over the years, made the effort to promote outdoor learning as well as raising the profile of the charity itself with music fundraising concerts and special family events in the woods.

The charity held its annual general meeting on February 29 in the Ormidale Hotel. The committee is made up of well-kent faces who have put in up to 15 years of volunteering.

This year it is striving to increase its membership base, put on volunteer activity days and improve the site’s signs. It is crucial people become members and/or come along and volunteer and enjoy the woodland for it to continue as one of the island’s special nature spaces.

The volunteer day is always the second Sunday of the month with tasks to suit all ages and abilities and tomorrow (Sunday), volunteers will meet at 11am in the Viewpoint car park at the top of the hill between Brodick and Lamlash. They will be planting more apple trees in the orchard as well as giving out boxes to the first seven volunteers for geocaches which will be put in the woodland as part of a new mini geocache trail.

Look out for the poll media co-ordinator Friederike Lorenzen will be creating to find out which times best suit people to lend a hand with woodland, path, orchard, pond and other maintenance tasks as we may be able to start up a mid-week volunteer day in addition to our Sunday one.

Roots of Arran welcomes all groups to use the site with careful adherence to ‘Leaving No Trace’ during their visit.

Please email juliette_arran@btinternet.com if you wish to become a member @ £10 annual subscription for our newsletter and event alerts. We have a facebook page which gives out information on the next volunteer day and a website www.rootsofarrancommunitywoodland.org.uk. We would be delighted to receive any photos of any nature observations within the woodland by email or on facebook messenger which we can add to our page.

We would love to show off quality images of the woodland and its wildlife with seasonal changes being of special interest, partly to encourage you to visit it several times in the year.

Juliette Walsh

The sign for the community woodland. NO_B10roots01

A volunteer day group at the Viewpoint car park. NO_B10roots02

Building work on the roots shelter which is now complete. NO_B10roots03